Nietzsche, philosopher of suspicion



Excerpt from newly released book

Nietzsche and his provocations

Known above all for philosophizing with hammer blows, challenging norms and destroying idols, this thinker, one of the most controversial of our time, left a controversial work that remains at the center of philosophical debate.

But it is not just academics and philosophy scholars that Nietzsche addresses. He comes to question our way of thinking, acting and feeling. He destabilizes our logic, our habitual way of thinking, when he tries to implode dualisms, making us see that, contrary to what we think, truth is not necessarily the opposite of error.

It challenges our usual way of acting, when it sharply criticizes the values ​​that still prevail among us, showing that, contrary to what we suppose, good does not always contribute to the prosperity of humanity and evil, to its degeneration. It provokes our usual way of feeling, when it decisively attacks the Christian religion and the morality of ressentiment, making it clear that, contrary to what we believe, we, human beings, have nothing divine.

Nietzsche, philosopher of suspicion, invites the reader to continually question their prejudices, beliefs and convictions. It is no coincidence that his work will be discredited, distorted, misrepresented – due to naivety or bad faith.

No other thinker has aroused, both through his life and his ideas, so much interest and curiosity. First of all, Nietzsche did not want to be confused. To his surprise and horror, both anti-Semites and anarchists claimed to be his followers. Over the decades, he will be evoked by socialists, Nazis and fascists, Christians, Jews and atheists. Thinkers and writers, journalists and politicians will have a point of reference in him, attacking or defending their ideas, vindicating or exorcising their thoughts. From this perspective, whoever thought they understood him was wrong about him; Those who didn't understand it thought it was wrong.

Over the years, the most diverse interpretations of Nietzsche's philosophy began to emerge. And those who studied his writings never ceased to differ. Some made him the precursor of Nazism and others, a most revolutionary thinker. Some saw him as a defender of atheism and others as a resentful Christian. There are those who considered him the critic of ideology, in the Marxist sense of the word, and those who saw him as the inspirer of psychoanalysis. There are those who took him as a herald of irrationalism and those who perceived him as the founder of a new sect, the guru of modern times.

And interpretations of his ideas multiplied. Some have tried to clarify the texts from a psychological approach. They understood the possible contradictions present in them as a manifestation of personal conflicts; they perceived their ideas as an “involuntary biography of their soul”; They understood, in particular, their conception of beyond-man as the result of a “philosophy of temperament”.

Others, relying on psychoanalysis, diagnosed his thinking as an expression of a neurotic personality. They viewed the conception of will to power as a philosophical translation of the game of their unconscious mechanisms; they related this same concept to their feeling of inferiority; they took the theses of the death of God and the emergence of the beyond-man as the arrival point of a process that went back to the origins of modern consciousness.

His writings had repercussions in the most diverse areas: in literature, in the arts, in psychoanalysis, in politics, in philosophy. His texts made an impact not only in Germany or even in Europe; they marked the experiences of successive generations of the Western world.

Nietzsche, philosopher of suspicion invites the reader to question themselves endlessly. And why not take the invitation he makes to us seriously and place the beliefs, convictions and prejudices we have about him under suspicion? That is precisely the purpose of this book.

Writer among many?

In an attempt to disqualify his reflection, for a long time they considered Nietzsche a writer, a poet or, at most, a poet-philosopher. In September 1888 he began to be recognized. A few months before suffering his psychic collapse in Turin, Georg Brandes reported to him the success of conferences on his philosophy at the University of Copenhagen; August Strindberg shared the emotion caused by the virulence of his words and the courage of his ideas. From Saint Petersburg and New York, the first letters from admirers reached him. With the end of his intellectual life came fame. So, it was above all his biography and his style that aroused interest.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the philosopher's influence was much more exerted in literature than in any other field. Not only were lesser-known German naturalist and expressionist authors inspired by him, but also renowned writers: Stefan George, Thomas Mann and, later, Robert Musil and Hermann Hesse. Many assumed that Nietzsche had not created a program, but created an atmosphere: the important thing was to breathe the air of his writings.

Fascinated by his language, they rediscovered in him the pure and crystalline sound of words, the exact correspondence between nuances of sounds and meanings, the new perfection of the German language. They saw him, above all, as a fine stylist, leaving aside confrontation with his thoughts.

It is a fact that his metaphors, parables and aphorisms exerted such an attraction that it made contact with his ideas difficult. It is also a fact that, in recent decades, relevant studies have appeared on his style.[1] But, from then on, stylistic texts of a different nature began to proliferate; They often abandon the examination of the philosopher's ideas almost completely. Some limit themselves to analyzing literary figures present in their writings; others restrict themselves to comparing them with those of different writers.

What can we expect today from a study that deals with Nietzsche's style? In my opinion, what remains to be done is to explore the indissoluble link between the philosophical content and the stylistic forms present in his books.

*Scarlett Marton She is a retired full professor in the philosophy department at USP. Author, among other books, of Nietzsche, from cosmic forces to human values (UFMG Publisher).


Scarlett Marton. Nietzsche, philosopher of suspicion. Belo Horizonte, Editora Autêntica, Coleção Ensaios, 2024, 142 pages. []


[1] Just remember the work by Alexander Nehamas entitled Nietzsche, life as literature (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1985); in French, Nietzsche, the life with littérature (Trans. Véronique Béghain. Paris: PUF, 1994); in Spanish, Nietzsche, life as literature (Trans. Ramón García Rodriguez. Mexico: Editorial Turner, 2002).

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